Sounders FC

Sounders dump Calabro, hire Brit as radio, TV voice

BBC veteran Arlo White has been named to replace Kevin Calabro as the radio and television voice of Seattle Sounders FC.

And Calabro used an English expression to explain why he’s out after one season.

“I got sacked,” he said. “There’s no easy other way to put it except I got sacked. It was because, a) I didn’t get it done, the product was not good; and b) I had a passion for something else and wanted to leave time open for something else.”

The Sounders dealt only with that second issue in explaining the change, saying that Calabro’s busy broadcast schedule prevented him from being as regularly available for Sounders duty as necessary.

“We felt like the brand needed a full-time commitment in the second year,” said Dave Pearson, Sounders vice president of communications and broadcasting.

Calabro admitted that was part of the issue. He has a 3 p.m. radio show on KIRO-AM five days a week and continues to work NBA games for ESPN and college games on FSN Northwest. With those duties overlapping the MLS season from March and perhaps into June, conflicts were inevitable.

Finally, when ESPN sought his services for an NBA conference final that would have demanded two weekends and a full week at the end of May, Calabro hit a roadblock that the Sounders didn’t want to work around.

“They needed a guy that’s hungry and driven and passionate about soccer and who is available 24/7 to do the soccer,” he said. “That’s the bottom line, and I was not going to be available 24/7 to do the soccer. And while I like the sport, I certainly don’t have the same passion for that sport that I do for NBA and college basketball.”

Best known locally as the voice of the SuperSonics, Calabro never claimed to be a soccer expert. He said that is one of the reasons he and the Sounders agreed to a one-year contract: so that both could reassess the experiment after one season.

Calabro said he is grateful for the opportunity and for his acceptance by fans. But while he said the Sounders were never critical of his work, he criticized himself.

“I did not give them the quality of the work that this project and the fans deserve,” he said. “I’ve never heard Arlo, but I know that he has an extensive soccer background. So, without having heard him ever before, I would have to say they probably have made the right hire.”

White worked at the BBC for the past nine years covering English Premier League soccer, cricket and even five Super Bowls.

White, 36, filled in for Calabro during the Houston game at Qwest Field last summer, and said he was approached about the full-time job in December. White said his career was going well enough in England that he would be lured away only by a special job – and that’s what he believes this is.

“When I came to Seattle for the first time for the opening night, it blew me away, it absolutely blew me away,” he said. “And that was only enforced, really, by the second trip in for the Houston game. It’s the passion of the supporters. Don’t take this the wrong way, but this is not a soccer mum audience; this is a crowd, this is a proper football crowd.”

White will be the lone man in the booth, and his work will be simulcast on both radio and television. He admits he knows more about the EPL than MLS, but he sounds confident that he will know what is necessary by opening day: March 25, when Seattle plays host to the expansion Philadelphia Union.

“I think I displayed in the Houston game that you do your homework,” he said. “That’s part and parcel of the job, isn’t it?”

Fans are invited to meet White at 11:30 a.m. today at the George & Dragon Pub, 206 N. 36th Street in Seattle prior to the Arsenal-Liverpool and Aston Villa-Manchester United EPL matches.

Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808